‘If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.’ —Joseph Stalin
“It is important for people to realize that we can make progress against world hunger, that world hunger is not hopeless. The worst enemy is apathy.” – Reverend David Beckmann, president of Alliance to End Hunger.
“Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank
In this week’s edition of “More than Meets the Eye,” we will address a global security issue that transcends the ones normally considered; namely, the matter of hunger and starvation in this season of pandemic chaos. According to the World Death Clock, on average, 56 million people die in the world every year. That is 4,679,452 deaths per month, 153,424.70 per day, 6,392.70 per hour, 106.60 per minute or 1.80 deaths per second.
Let’s juxtapose the above data next to two current global realities— Reality No. 1: Coronavirus Pandemic, and Reality No. 2: Global Starvation.
Coronavirus deaths: Globally (as of 11/16/2020) there have been 1,321,712 deaths over the past 11 months. At the current death rate that would be 1,441,867 deaths in total for 2020. That is 120,155.08 deaths per month, 4005.17 per day, 166.88 deaths per hour, 2.78 deaths per minute or .046 deaths per second.
Starvation deaths: Globally in 2020 there will be in excess of 9 million deaths due to starvation. That is 750,000 deaths each month, 25,000 deaths each day, 1041.66 deaths each hour, 17.36 deaths every minute or .29 deaths every second.
In the time it takes you to read this article, (10-15 minutes) 1,066 people will die globally from a multitude of reasons, varying from coronary disease to cancer, as well as to terrorist attacks. Roughly 28 people will die from complications due to the Coronavirus. Around 174 people will die from starvation; over half of them will be children.
What is my point? Every death is a tragedy, whether caused by disease or starvation, or for that matter, natural causes. Death brings pain and suffering no matter what its cause. For today, I’d like us to look at the general trending attitudes towards these causes of death, how they are shaped, and how, if we are not careful, we can become careless in our understanding of pain and suffering in our world, as well as in global security and social stability.
Our understanding of matters such as starvation and disease are shaped by news and data. We are bombarded daily, even hourly, by information about the Coronavirus. If someone were to come from another planet and turn on mainstream media they would think that the primary problem in our world is this terrible disease known as, COVID-19. The reality is: It is not. For most of us, however, there is evidence that such a disconnect exists between what we see in the news and reality. This same alien might visit the Western world and make a variety of assumptions, including that humans are healthy, plump, and happy.
Meanwhile, the world is impatiently sitting on the edge of fear and anxiety grasping for a morsel from Big Pharma in the form of some kind of vaccine. No doubt, there are people dying, and a vaccine needs to be developed and implemented globally as quickly as possible. But what is happening is that the actions being taken by so many governments are leaving the vulnerable out in the cold concerning their food security. Hunger is predictable, preventable, and treatable. No one should suffer or die from malnutrition, especially since 90% of malnourished children who complete treatment are cured.
There will be a vaccine for the Coronavirus soon. The world’s best minds, best research, and billions of dollars are being spent on finding this vaccine. The world wants it. The world needs it. Already there exists a vaccine for global starvation; that vaccine is: you. It is you and me caring enough to do something about it. While hundreds of thousands are perishing from COVID-19, tens of millions are on the brink of starvation. Perhaps it is time to look beyond what mainstream media is telling us so that we can see that there is more than meets the eye in this desperate race for global survival.
In 2015, world leaders charted a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The second of these is to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.
The United Nations predicts that the number of people facing acute hunger could nearly double by the end of 2020. Researchers estimate that child mortality could rise for the first time in 60 years because of COVID-19 and its secondary impacts. Acute malnutrition alone could cause an additional 10,000 child deaths each month.
More than 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food. An additional 83 to 132 million people are at risk of being undernourished in 2020 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The world has made great progress in reducing hunger: There are 216 million fewer hungry people than in 1990-92, despite a 1.9 billion increase in the world’s population.
Hunger and malnutrition are the biggest risks to health worldwide – greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Undernutrition is the cause of around 45% of deaths among children under five. Children who live in extreme poverty in low income countries, especially in remote areas, are more likely to be underfed and malnourished.
The World Bank projects that economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4 percent in 2019 to -2.1 to -5.1 percent in 2020, the first recession in the region in 25 years. That will result in 80 million more people across the continent living in extreme poverty. This is a significant setback, given that March 2019 was the first time in recent history that more Africans were escaping extreme poverty than being born below the poverty line.
The United Nations Development Program estimates that developing countries stand to lose $220 billion in income, and that half of jobs across Africa could be lost due to the pandemic.
The amount of money needed to battle hunger on a global scale is around $30 billion annually, according to estimates from the United Nations. That breaks down to about $4.30 per person. That is just to feed the hungry. A more robust approach needs to evolve that will allow these vulnerable communities to develop self-sufficient food security programs allowing their entire populace to thrive, eat healthy and create jobs.
The World Food Program estimates that Covid-19 could double the number of people in low and middle-income countries facing acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. The chief concern is that the measures being taken to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus are possibly exacerbating the problem of global hunger and starvation. The crisis is still unfolding, and their initial observations include the following:
1. Transportation and economic restrictions are disrupting food systems. An estimated 80 percent of consumers in low-income countries rely on markets for food supplies. Lockdown measures and business closures to contain the virus in at least 33 of Africa’s 54 countries are affecting the movement of commodities to consumers, with dense urban and peri-urban areas hit hardest. There, a range of informal and small and medium scale businesses constitute the great majority of the food system—providing production, processing, marketing, and food services, including street food vendors and restaurants. Their inability to operate will affect food access throughout major population centers. This exact same condition exists within the massive slums in India as well.
2. Export bans and border closures may make things worse. Much of the crisis in 2007-08 stemmed from a global shortage of staple food stocks such as rice, corn, and wheat, followed by the imposition of export bans by major suppliers. These trade restrictions resulted in higher food prices that amplified food insecurity: prices rose precipitously, and low-income consumers were unable to meet their needs. Fortunately, there is no similar global supply shortage in 2020, but panic-buying by consumers has put an immediate strain on supply chains in some countries. Despite the lessons from 2007-08, today, some major suppliers (including Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia) have already placed or are considering export restrictions.
Border closures or processing delays are also affecting regional movements of agricultural commodities. Kenyan millers, for example, report difficulties in obtaining maize from regional suppliers in Uganda and Tanzania, affecting the production of ugali, the national staple food.
3. Job losses economy-wide will rapidly diminish the food purchasing power of many households. The loss of jobs and income due to the economic lockdowns is causing financial hardship for many households and will affect their ability to buy food and other necessities. The poorest—with little or no access to social protection programs—will be the hardest hit. The contraction of food purchasing power, in general, will affect the type and quantity of food products demanded by consumers. These conditions exist from West Africa to East Asia and are only worsening daily.
4. Future agricultural production is threatened by the lack of labor, services, and inputs. Across the tropics and sub-tropics, April and May are the beginning of the major agricultural production season. Businesses providing seeds, fertilizers, mechanization services, and livestock feed will be constrained in their abilities to deliver the quantities needed on time. Farmers may find it difficult to pay for inputs and services. Labor shortages—due to border closures, movement restrictions, and worker illness—will also be problematic, particularly for high-value, labor-intensive commodities. Timeliness of land preparation and planting is a major concern for rain-fed crops. Delayed planting will result in certain production declines for the coming season, prolonging and deepening the impact of the pandemic.
5. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that provide most, over 60% of the production and post-farm agricultural services face financial ruin as a result of the economic shutdowns mandated for pandemic control. Over the past decade, the United States through the Feed the Future program has been at the forefront of supporting country policies and programs to stimulate private-sector-led agricultural growth, mainly through SMEs. In the absence of safety net programs, widespread business failures will hollow out the agribusiness service sector.
Delays in deliveries of essential foods and agricultural inputs will affect food supplies for many months to come. The loss of jobs and incomes is already reducing agriculture-related demand and threatening gains made on poverty and nutrition in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade.
Globally, governments are suffering from an acute form of “myopia,” concerning their treatment of the Coronavirus pandemic and starvation. Many of their decisions for responding to the coronavirus threat are only accelerating their already existing problem of population starvation.
Millions of people are starving to death. Those who are not dying are suffering from a plethora of malnutrition-related diseases which contribute to their already desperate condition.
Without understanding that these two maladies survive alongside one another and are equally devastating, the world will never be able to solve these problems. There will always be another Ebola, another AIDS, another SARS another _______(fill in the blank). There will be another virus.
World starvation is not going away with a vaccine unless it is elevated in importance as a global problem that is equally as tragic as a coronavirus. As I stated above, if there is a vaccine for global starvation, it is you and me. We can end global hunger, but only if we want to do so.
According to the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2019,” to end hunger, we must tackle its root causes. The world has already made incredible progress in reducing malnutrition and child mortality rates: since 1990, the proportion of malnourished children in the world has been cut in half. Now — as progress has begun to stall — the global community strives to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to “end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.
- Influence public policy to support poor people. Governments play a key role in allocating resources and adopting policies that influence the lives of poor and hungry people. Use your U.S. citizenship and self-empowerment to influence the nation’s voice including changing government policies.
- Contribute financially to reducing hunger and poverty. While it is, in general, not possible to support individual families who are poor, it is possible to contribute to organizations that support them. See our list of some of those organizations below.
- Work directly with poor people.
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2019: In Brief, page 4: http://www.fao.org/3/ca5249en/ca5249en.pdf
Creating a Better Way to Deal with Hunger” by Saul Guerrero, https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/story/creating-better-way-deal-hunger
World Food Hunger Relief Organizations… a cursory list.
My favorite- Global Hunger Taskforce… This is a new and unique organization established to leverage technologies, mobilize a new generation and rapidly implement compassion-based hunger mitigation and sustainment programs, bringing together the vast array of government and non-government resources to help eradicate world-hunger as it exists today.
Here is a list that I have vetted and believe they are doing good work in the area of hunger relief.
- Food for the Hungry… https://www.fh.org